The Mediterranean Biodiversity Protection Community -MBPC- (Interreg Med Programme project) finalises the activities this 2022. To celebrate the achievements and all the work done, the community partners met in Brussels at the Committee of the Regions that hosted the project to present the final policy recommendations  and all products done so far. In order to mobilise transformational change and reverse the catastrophic biodiversity loss and climate change impacts the MBPC is currently witnessing in the Mediterranean. Sharing the conclusions (and new perspectives!) of many years’ work on biodiversity conservation in the Mediterranean, which started back in 2016 with the PANACeA project , the event aimed to showcase achievements and results (tools, experiences, lessons learned, best practices), and to mobilise the adoption of key available solutions supporting global, European, and Mediterranean agendas and strategies. Gathering speakers and participants from all over the Mediterranean basin, representing a large variety of stakeholders (biodiversity managers, territorial planners, decision-makers, researchers, representatives from biodiversity- and climate-related sectoral organisations…), the event offered an opportunity to make every voice heard and to discuss achievements, challenges, solutions, and future actions.

The final event started on November 2, the meeting kicked off with “Community building and networking” activities, acting as a real icebreaker between participants, who shared their biodiversity conservation stories, paired up to solve game-issues and broadened their perceptions by playing the role of  different stakeholders.

On November 3 and 4, the European Committee of the Regions warmly welcomed participants and set the scene for all the sessions to take place. These two days aimed to share experiences and discuss how to protect, conserve and restore the rich biodiversity of the Mediterranean basin.

Notably, Nature-based Solutions across the Mediterranean region were highlighted as a cost-effective way to provide around one-third of the climate mitigation needed between now and 2030. Through protecting, effectively managing and restoring ecosystems, they can be a powerful tool for climate change adaptation and mitigation in coastal communities and can increase socio-ecological resilience and overall well-being, with the involvement of communities and economic actors in their implementation. 

Supporting the discussions undertaken during the workshop in Dubrovnik last May 2022, in which MedCities was present as Dubrovnik is one of the members of the association- the transboundary and regional approach to the governance of Mediterranean biodiversity in the South Adriatic Ionian Sea – Ecologically and Biologically Significant Area – was also discussed. In particular, the supportive role of regional organisations in the development of a transboundary governance framework and the operationalisation of political will into practical management, were key topics.

The first panel of experts in this session, reiterated the importance of functional transboundary governance systems that can activate a variety of governance arrangements for bringing policy integration across countries or regions and that address interventions towards balancing food provision, reduced waste, accelerated climate mitigation and nature protection. 

On the afternoon of 3 November, the session focused on ecosystem restoration and rewilding needs in the Mediterranean. It showcased transferable ecosystem restoration and rewilding efforts underway in the Mediterranean region, the economic feasibility of such actions and the  tangible socio-economic benefits they bring to local populations. Examples of some of the cases presented were: the restoration of forest landscape in the Shouf Biosphere Reserve in Lebanon and the improvement of wetlands networks in Albufeira de València. This two examples are placed in two MedCities members. All these practices are compiled in the “Mediterranean ecosystem restoration sites” catalogue

Finally, the last session targeted biodiversity conservation investments. As with any interventions that require uptake and scaling up and for policies to be effectively implemented, there is a need for sufficient funding and finances. 

Setting action-oriented priorities moving beyond 2022 and how to mainstream biodiversity conservation into marine and maritime policies, were showcased in the frame of the Seas, Rivers, Islands and Coastal Areas Intergroup (SEArica) of the European Parliament session held on 4 November 2022. For instance, the Nature Restoration Law to ensure the long-term recovery of the EU’s natural capital through the restoration of ecosystems was debated.

Regional authorities representatives could take the floor; for the occasion, MedCities Secretary GeneralJosep Canals stressed the important role local authorities have in implementing these regional initiatives “through networking, municipalities can help raise awareness and share knowledge with civil societies about the importance of protecting biodiversity”. Also, during this session focused on territorial cooperation for biodiversity challenges, Mr. Canals underlined the need for municipalities to be able to impose fiscal measures and more competencies to regulate sea and touristic and coastal activities. What is more, he underlined MedCities’ role when talking about biodiversity protection: “MBPC is now arriving at the end but we are also partners from ENSERES project that gives continuation to all work done and give the opportunity to transfer knowledge to South Mediterranean cities, some of them, MedCities members“.

And he was referring to Sfax, as this Tunisian city together with Tyre in Lebanon are ENSERES pilot areas. The event counted with two representatives:  Mohamed Wajdi (Sfax) and Ali Badreddine (Tyre) , talked about the municipal benefits of taking part in the ENSERES project (ENI CBC MED) and how regional and cross-border cooperation and institutional frameworks support nature.

Some of the quotes from their speeches can be seen here.

An overall take home message was to act together across all levels, from high-level institutions to local levels and even as individuals. Furthermore, all stakeholders and particularly non-nature actors, need to change the way in which nature is seen and valued, if we want to change the trend of biodiversity loss and increase ecological and societal resilience across the Mediterranean Basin. As stated by Dania Abdul Malak (ETC-UMA) MBPC coordinator: “We still have time for decisive action, but time is running out, we need to act now, and we need to act urgently”.

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